Earth Week: Sally Low: Broken Machinery
The bodies of work that I will be sharing during Earth Week are linked by this thematic lens: making the often-invisible nature of the global climate and the ecological crisis more visible using conceptual, lens-based art techniques. Each body of work speaks to a different aspect of the climate and ecological crisis: loss of place; waste; sea level rise, plastic pollution, industrial meat production, desertification, and fire. These bodies of work seek to uncover the hidden interdependence of both social and natural systems and challenge us to re-examine our relationships with each other and this planet.
Many of Sally Low’s projects engage with communities affected by industry or development. These are often marginalised communities living in “forgotten areas” where high levels of poverty, health and social issues make them an easy target for exploitation.
Growing up in the late stages of apartheid South Africa and the transition to democracy conscientised Sally to the extreme levels of inequality and injustice, and the ability of photography to amplify the voices of those who sometimes do not get a platform.
In her work, she focuses on individuals and communities sharing their stories of what seems to be an almost insurmountable struggle. Communities and individuals confronting big business year in and year out, against all odds, and in some cases risking their very freedom.
Follow Sally Low on Instagram: @_sally_low_
Growing up in South Africa, many of my childhood memories were firmly centered around food. The ice cream truck on a hot sunny day. The Sunday roast. I remember going to the shop with my mother. The packages of meat were so shiny and clean. The tiny body parts of the animals mechanically separated and neatly arranged, an artifice, concealing disturbing and traumatic actions that are taking place behind these walls.
Broken Machinery investigates the openly obscured violence of the meat industry. While there has been much attention in recent years as to the social and environmental costs of meat production, what often remains overlooked is the trauma encountered by the workers on the slaughterhouse floor. Here physical injury – severed appendages and fractured bones –are commonplace. Unseen too, is the mental trauma, byproducts of the acts of violence that these workers must commit. PTSD, depression, and increased levels of domestic abuse, correlate with the work of these individuals. Compounding to this, slaughterhouses often employ laborers from marginalised and impoverished communities, pulled into the industry with limited options. These labourers are themselves fed into the machine, fodder for a system of oppression and a labour market that is rooted in a colonialist history.
For this project I returned to my childhood home of South Africa. I interviewed and photographed slaughterhouse workers who were willing to speak with me about their experiences, and then subjected their portraits to the processes that they’ve experienced and implemented : the freezing conditions , the electrocutions, the nausea, the slitting of throats, the blood. In doing this work, I hope to explore the hidden horrors that are willfully concealed – economically, linguistically, and physically – behind the walls of the slaughterhouse.
I want to directly confront audiences with these acts of violence, probing our mutually held assumptions, and challenging our collective cognitive dissonance surrounding the consumption of animal products. -Sally Low
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